PARIS — Saab Kockums declined to comment on media reports that Poland is likely to order the A26 diesel-electric submarine from the Swedish naval manufacturer.
"There are a number of submarine programs," Gunnar Wieslander, head of Saab Kockums, told reporters Tuesday at the Euronaval trade show when asked about Polish interest. "We're active with them. We see an interest in some countries."
Polish pro-government daily Nasz Dziennik has reported Warsaw was most likely to order three A26 subs, rather than seal a deal with French DCNS or German archrival ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS). A Polish deal is estimated to be worth up to 10 billion zloty (US $2.5 billion).
DCNS sees Poland as a prospective clients for its Scorpene attack submarine despite tense bilateral relations between Paris and Warsaw.
Sweden has a strong interest in submarines, reflecting a change in the security environment, Wieslander said, noting the Iskander missile system in Kaliningrad. There is "interest for assets that can't be found easily," he said. Stealth is a key design factor of the A26, which will patrol the shallow waters of the Baltic sea. There is need for a "good boat that will run deep, fast and extremely quietly," he said.
A distinctive feature of the A26 is the multimission portal at the boat's bow. That 150-centimeter-wide, watertight door, flanked by two torpedo tubes on each side, allows the submarine to deploy manned and unmanned vehicles underwater.
Discussions with Sweden's FMV procurement office and its Navy led to a horizontal rather than vertical portal as the former gives easier access and deployment of equipment. That portal could be used for manned vehicles for special operations forces and divers.
Work began last year when steel was cut on the first of the two A26 boats for the Swedish Navy, reviving Kockums' work load after a worrying fallow when the company was a TKMS subsidiary. Work has also started on the second boat.
Previously there was development of a new submarine every 10 years, maintaining valuable work experience, but the A26 will be the first in 20 years, Wieslander said. Building the boat will be a way for an older generation to pass on skills to younger workers.
"Sweden is a nation of engineers," Wieslander said, adding that there is strong interest among young engineers to work on highly complex submarine systems.
Kockums is applying an interdisciplinary industrial approach adopted on the Saab Gripen fighter jet, and the submarine builder is moving over to using Dassault Systèmes' Catia software for computer-aided design and manufacturing, replacing two separate programs presently used.
A Mark 4 Stirling air-independent propulsion (AIP) system will be fitted to the A26, aimed at delivering more power and less noise from the engine.
Kockums is also working on a midlife upgrade on two Gotland-class submarines, fitting a new AIP and combat management system. Those measures are aimed at delivering a seamless transformation between the Gotland and A26 boats, and extending the life of the former for another 20 years.
Saab signed a contract last year to build the two A26-class submarines in a deal worth SEK 7.6 billion (US $862.4 million), with a first delivery in 2022 and the second in 2024.
The upgrade work on the Gotland is worth SEK 2.1 billion, with a first delivery in late 2018 and the second a year later.
Poland's lack of interest in the DCNS Scorpene sub stems from tense relations between Paris and Warsaw, after Poland effectively canceled a pick of Airbus Helicopters' Caracal military transport helo, a deal set up by the previous Polish government.
French officers at Euronaval said the French Defense Ministry had not formally canceled an invitation to a Polish delegation but the routine offer of hospitality and assigning officers to accompany the Polish officers had been withdrawn. Poland understood there was little welcome from the Defense Ministry, which is the backer for the exhibition.
Groupement des Industries de Construction et Activités Navales , a trade organization, organizes the show, which closes Oct. 21.